ALTOONA — Evan Galimberti shoved aside a DuBois guard. He plowed past one of the Beavers’ tackles.
Linebacker Ryan Goeke occupied the other guard, allowing Galimberti to develop a surge.
Galimberti, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound senior defensive tackle, held Bryson Paulinellie to a 1-yard gain on the fourth-and-2 play late in the third quarter of the District 6-9 Class AAAA final.
Not only did Galimberti stuff Paulinellie. He smothered DuBois’ shot at a rally.
Galimberti and the rest of State College’s energized defense limited one of the northwest Pennsylvania’s top offensive shows to meager totals in Friday’s 35-13 victory at Mansion Park. In short, the Little Lions played championship-caliber defense to retain their district title.
The Little Lions (9-3), who advance to meet McDowell in next weekend’s PIAA sub-regional, held a DuBois offense averaging 48.3 points per game to just two second-half touchdowns.
State College’s defensive plan was simple: try to control the interior. Galimberti, fellow defensive tackle Amir Haywood and inside linebackers Goeke and Mike Rizzuto accomplished the task early and encountered little resistance as the game progressed.
“We knew we could beat them up front with me, Amir, Goeke and Rizzuto,” Galimberti said. “We knew those four could pound on them hard.”
At times, Galimberti interrupted DuBois’ up-tempo, no-huddle offense on his own. His first half included three sacks, which resulted in the Beavers’ losing 36 yards.
But his signature play was the stop on the fourth-and-2, an inside run that started on the Beavers’ 45. State College led 21-7 with 1:35 left in the third, a tenuous margin considering DuBois’ quick-strike abilities.
“That was huge,” Goeke said. “Evan made a lot of good stops all night and we really controlled the line.”
Less than seven minutes later, State College held a 35-7 lead thanks to Goeke’s 6-yard run and Dan Fry’s 32-yard interception return. Only 6:23 remained when Fry galloped untouched after snagging a ball that ricocheted off a DuBois receiver.
Despite the interception, the hyped matchup between the Beavers’ passing game and the Little Lions’ athletic secondary never materialized. DuBois lost starting center Nick Davido, who calls pass protections, to an injury on the third play of the second half. DuBois coach Frank Varischetti said losing Davido made it difficult for his team to throw.
The Beavers (8-2) attempted just 13 passes. They completed seven for 59 yards. DuBois entered Friday averaging 202 passing yards per game.
“I think they were probably concerned about interceptions,” State College coach Al Wolski said. “We have a pretty good secondary. It’s probably a better secondary than they had faced in other games. I don’t think they would have had success throwing the ball.”
Most of DuBois’ forward movement originated from Wildcat sets Varischetti started calling after his offense failed to collect a first down in its first two drives.
With Paulinellie taking snaps and dashing left and right, the Beavers moved the ball to the State College 5-yard line early in the second quarter. The drive stalled with a botched exchange recovered by State College safety Michael O’Melia. Two players later, quarterback Patrick Irwin raced 88 yards to give the Little Lions a 21-0 lead.
“It definitely shifted the momentum,” Varischetti said of the fumble. “If we score, it’s probably 14-7 going into the half. Things kind of fell apart on us from that point.”
State College outgained DuBois 426-204. Irwin rushed for a game-high 132 yards on seven carries and completed 11 of 14 passes for 124 yards. Goeke added 67 rushing yards and Sean King caught five passes for 72 yards.
The Little Lions first drive foreshadowed the rest of the game as they traveled 68 yards on 13 plays. The drive, which used 6:48, included Irwin’s 15-yard completion to King on fourth-and-6 and ended with Darian Herncane’s 4-yard touchdown reception.
Garrett Brown led DuBois with 103 yards on 16 carries. Paulinellie added 77 yards on 13 carries.
The Little Lions are bracing for a more physical game against District 10 McDowell, which blasted District 8 Perry 61-14 on Friday. The Trojans are 6-5, but they have faced perhaps the state’s most demanding schedule. Defeating McDowell would send State College to the PIAA quarterfinals for a fifth straight year.
“I hope we are not peaking,” Goeke said. “I hope we are peaking in the next couple of weeks.”
Follow Guy Cipriano on Twitter @cdtguy.